September 10, 2004: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Social Work: Caste: Wellesley Townsman: After 10th grade, a Peace Corps volunteer helped Maya Pariya find a scholarship to attend college in Kathmandu, where she studied social work

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : The Peace Corps in Nepal: September 10, 2004: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Social Work: Caste: Wellesley Townsman: After 10th grade, a Peace Corps volunteer helped Maya Pariya find a scholarship to attend college in Kathmandu, where she studied social work

By Admin1 (admin) ( on Saturday, October 02, 2004 - 3:38 pm: Edit Post

After 10th grade, a Peace Corps volunteer helped Maya Pariya find a scholarship to attend college in Kathmandu, where she studied social work

After 10th grade, a Peace Corps volunteer helped Maya Pariya find a scholarship to attend college in Kathmandu, where she studied social work

After 10th grade, a Peace Corps volunteer helped Maya Pariya find a scholarship to attend college in Kathmandu, where she studied social work

The Nepal tourists rarely see

By Anne-Marie Smolski/ Townsman Staff

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Caste discrimination is not obvious to most tourists visiting Nepal, even those who go trekking and see people out in the country. It's not even obvious to a lot of Westerners who live there and do development work.

Eva Kasell says that it's because one really needs to have an inside source, like she has in Bishnu Maya Pariyar, who has grown up feeling it. Kasell, through a photo exhibit, "Women and Girls of Taklung," will provide glimpses into the world of the Dalit (low-caste women) at the Wellesley Free Library through Sept. 29.

Kasell struck up a friendship with Pariyar in Nepal in 1998, when the Lexington resident visited her son, then a college student, who was spending a year abroad. Kasell's son knew Pariyar, a social worker, and the two women spent several days together traveling around the country and getting to know each other.

Admiring Pariyar's pluck and determination against all odds to obtain an education and become a social worker in Nepal, Kasell and her husband decided to sponsor the young woman to further her education in the United States.

"We would talk 'til late into the night," says Kasell about her friend and houseguest, who she says is like a daughter to her. "It took me a long, long time before I thought I understood the culture where she came from. And I had been to Nepal. But I had not been to the village where she came from. And tourists, when they go to Nepal, they don't see that side of Nepal.

"There's another thing that I've been thinking more about lately, says Kasell, "and that is the whole issue of caste discrimination has not really gotten the press that it deserves - because it's exactly like Apartheid in South Africa. It is that people are segregated. They are totally abused and unrecognized as people, almost, and it's a horrible thing. And I don't know that people in the West quite realize how pervasive and how extreme it is. Just recently, the issue has been taken up by human rights organizations on par with other issues of racial discrimination ...."

One of nine children, Pariyar was determined to get an education. Both her mother and oldest sister were illiterate. Pariyar's family came from the tailor caste. Being poor, a girl and low-caste, the odds were not in her favor, but she persisted.

She attended school near her house until seventh grade and was ridiculed by the other children and some of the teachers. During her last four years of school, she had to walk two hours each way to complete her education. After 10th grade, a Peace Corps volunteer helped her find a scholarship to attend college in Kathmandu, where she studied social work.

"There are very, very few low-caste women who have achieved that degree of education," Kasell says. Pariyar is the first from her village to go to college. And in all of Nepal, there is just a handful of women who are college-educated.

The literacy rate among low-caste women in Nepal is 12 percent; nationally it's 56 percent, according to Kasell.

Always an advocate of the downtrodden, Pariyar, at 20 founded Empower Dalit Women of Nepal to help low-caste women fight for their human rights. The organization, operating in remote, rural Nepal, sponsors literacy programs, creates savings-and-loan groups and offers scholarship programs.

When they're no longer illiterate and can earn a little money of their own, the Dalit women become empowered to take social action. Several of the groups have instituted rules for drinking and gambling, and this has had a positive effect on domestic violence. They have formed friendships with higher-caste women to cut across social boundaries. They have undertaken building projects, such as a temple or meeting house, to benefit the entire community. Some have become entrepreneurs and have established tea stalls; others sell animals and vegetables at the local market. And they insist that their children receive an education.

Pariyar treasures hers. She spent her first year in the United States with the Kasells studying English and applying to college. Last May, she graduated from Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill with a degree in political science. Currently, Pariyar is employed by the Asian Taskforce Against Domestic Violence in Boston. She intends to pursue a master's degree in the United States in the next three years, and expects to return to Nepal to live within five years.

"I never feel like I'm away from my family," says Pariyar. She and her friends, Kasell and Inger Nielsen of Wellesley, had gathered at the Wellesley Free Library to talk about the exhibit, life in Nepal and the organization they all belong to. The closeness of the three women was apparent as they hugged affectionately and shared tidbits of news since they'd last met.

Pariyar has been back to Nepal three times since coming to the United States, and Kasell says that Pariyar is always calling and sending money there. Although Pariyar had intended to visit again this year, she cannot, because of civil war in her country.

In 2001, Kasell accompanied Pariyar to visit her family and some of the women's groups in Taklung, in western Nepal. It was during this time that she captured the portraits of the Dalit women and girls on her point-and-shoot camera that will be on view at the library.

Kasell says the she decided that she had to do something to help Pariyar with her efforts. So, she established an American branch of Empower Dalit Women of Nepal. Nielsen is treasurer of the nonprofit organization.

"It's totally, totally exciting to be part of the organization," Nielsen says. When she heard Pariyar's story, she says, she thought, "We have to do something to be part of it."

She was soon contacting Kim and David Leggett of Leggett & Leggett, a Wellesley accounting firm. Their children had been on the same swimming team as hers at Wellesley High School. She said she told them she needed advice about becoming nonprofit and they said they would love to help out. "It was a huge step forward to get the nonprofit status," according to Kasell, and Pariyar says that the organization gained much more support because of that.

Nielsen says that Carolyn Osteen, a fellow Wellesley College alumna who is an attorney at Ropes & Gray LLP in Boston, did pro bono work to help the organization, and that Bob Williams of The Camera Place in Wellesley gave them a big discount on developing the photos for the exhibit.

Their good nature was vastly different from the response Pariyar got in her own country when she founded Empower Dalit Women of Nepal. She said in addition to experiencing a lot of resistance from men, the government always gave them a hard time. "It took more than six months to register the organization," she says. "They just denied for everything." She says that if they had paid bribes, which is more often than not the custom, it wouldn't have been so hard. "But we did not have money to pay," she says, "and we did not want to, not even one cup of tea."

Nielsen says that it's amazing to her to be part of such a small organization that is able to do as much as they can and have no waste in the money that people give to them.

So little goes so far in Nepal, Kasell says. "For $5, for $5 for heaven's sake, you can send a kid to school for a year - a kid who otherwise wouldn't have gone to school. It's mind-boggling."

"A lot of people give a very modest amount," Nielsen adds, "and it goes a long way."

In addition to soliciting donations and looking for sponsorship for Empower Dalit Women of Nepal, the organization does fund raising by sponsoring a yard sale every other year and by selling crafts from Nepal at their annual sale the weekend before Thanksgiving. That event features pashmina shawls, other clothing items, jewelry and woven cloth.

But for the month of September, Kasell is hoping that people will come to see the exhibit at the library, and will come on Sept. 12, especially, to hear Pariyar tell her story.

Kasell says, "I hope it will create interest in the issues of caste and gender discrimination in South Asia, specifically in Nepal. And I hope people will be moved by the pictures to think of these women as our sisters - that it's just as important to help people over there, even though it's far away, as it is to help people nearby - because we live in such a small world now."

"Women and Girls of Taklung" will be on view in the Wakelin Room of the Wellesley Free Library, 530 Washington St., through Sept. 29. On Sunday, Sept. 12, from 2-4 p.m., Eva Kasell will present a 40-minute video, and there will be a discussion and reception. Bishnu Maya Pariyar will speak. Call 781-235-1610.

There will be a craft sale on Saturday, Nov. 20, in Wellesley. Call 781-237-1266. On Sunday, Nov. 21, there will be a sale in Lexington. Call 781-862-8047.

When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Wellesley Townsman

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nepal; Social Work; Caste



By Gelbu Sherpa ( - on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 7:11 pm: Edit Post

Dear Sir/ Madam,

I very much happy to introdcue my self here. Well I am young man from the far east of Nepal where mount Everest is located. By the title I am a SHERPA.

My childhood was grown up with full of challenging and struglle. Thanks God that I am now here in this stage. I graduate from one of the Nepelse University with the faculty of science. Financially I am from very poor back ground. One of my dream is to be a true social worker. Therefore I try to established a non govermental organization called " JEEVAN JYOTI-LIGHT OF LIFE" where 30 poor socially discriminated children are learning.
My message is that if there is any body who wills to help this organization please mail us. We need help. Your small help can bring big changes for those poor kids.

Gelbu Sherpa

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